Thirteen conservation and fisheries protection organizations today challenged the Bush administration’s eleventh hour decision to allow the timber industry to nearly quadruple its current logging on public lands in western Oregon. The Western Oregon Plan Revision, known by the acronym WOPR, rezones 2.6 million acres of federal public forests in Oregon managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The Bush administration timber giveaway comes despite numerous scientific studies concluding that these dramatic increases in logging will harm clean water and healthy streams, push wildlife toward extinction, contribute to global warming, and destroy much of Oregon’s remaining old-growth forests.
The timber giveaway promises over 500 million board feet of lumber per year to the timber industry at the expense of salmon spawning streams, healthy old-growth forests, and habitat for rare birds such as the northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet. WOPR also fails to deal with the climate change crisis.
“At a time when we are desperately searching for global warming solutions, the logging called for in WOPR would pump 180 million tons of carbon into our air — the equivalent of adding one million cars to Oregon roads for 132 years,” said Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild.
“This cut-and-run management of our irreplaceable natural resources will have devastating consequences that far outlast the outgoing administration,” said Joseph Vaile of the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center based in southwest Oregon.
BLM finalized WOPR despite broad public opposition. Of the nearly 30,000 public comments the agency received on the draft plan, over 90 percent opposed the increases in logging. Additionally, over 200 residents filed official protests with BLM — protests BLM hastily denied in its rush to finalize the plan.
“Throughout this entire planning process, BLM has refused to consider any opinion that contradicts what it wants to hear,” said Kristen Boyles, an attorney with Earthjustice. “They have ignored the science, ignored the public, and ignored the law.”
The Bush administration consistently ignored highly critical scientific reviews that found WOPR was based on insufficient evidence, incomplete modeling, and would not comply with laws safeguarding fish and wildlife habitat. The administration even ignored criticisms and studies from federal and state agencies showing that the analysis of the WOPR’s effects was inaccurate and inadequate, and deliberately bypassed mandatory consultation with the federal wildlife agencies to avoid confronting WOPR’s harmful effects on endangered species.
“This last-minute Bush administration plan throws out many important salmon protections in what are the last, best spawning and rearing areas for salmon on public lands,” commented Glen Spain, for the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA), one of the co-plaintiffs and a major commercial fishing organization. “This plan is a slap in the face of hard working commercial fishing families struggling to survive on salmon runs nearly ruined by decades of inland habitat loss, including excessive logging.”
WOPR represents the biggest threat to forest management in the Pacific Northwest in over 15 years. WOPR undermines the science-based guidelines found in the Northwest Forest Plan and will have impacts well beyond Oregon’s borders.
“WOPR will be disastrous for the forests and species of northwestern California, which are connected to the rest of our regional old-growth forests through BLM land in southern Oregon,” said Scott Greacen of EPIC. “BLM has basically torn off the southern half of the Northwest Forest Plan and thrown it away.”
In late 2008, the Bush administration attempted to bypass mandatory opportunities for public participation in developing the WOPR. In response to a lawsuit filed by conservation groups, the administration reversed course and provided a public protest period; however, the administration refused to modify the WOPR in response to the many identified shortcomings. The Bush administration also brushed aside strong criticism from Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski.
The case was filed by Earthjustice on behalf of Oregon Wild, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, The Wilderness Society, Cascadia Wildlands Project, Center for Biological Diversity, EPIC, Umpqua Watersheds, American Lands Alliance, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Greenpeace, Coast Range Association, and Sierra Club.
Read the complaint (PDF)